Murder victim had 45 stab wounds, blood found in accused’s bedroom

An autopsy carried out on Mario Farrugia’s remains revealed that he had suffered around 45 stab wounds, inflicted by a single-bladed knife in his upper right chest area

Elliot Paul Busuttil
Elliot Paul Busuttil

Investigators found traces of murder victim Mario Farrugia’s blood smeared on the wall of Eliot Paul Busuttil’s bedroom, a court has been told as the compilation of evidence against Busuttil began before magistrate Astrid May Grima on Thursday.

Busuttil, 38, is accused of the murder of 62-year-old Mario Farrugia, whose body was discovered in an advanced state of decomposition, inside the trunk of his own car in a Qormi valley, on 5 April. DNA tests later identified the human remains as Farrugia’s.

An autopsy carried out on Mario Farrugia’s remains revealed that he had suffered around 45 stab wounds, inflicted by a single-bladed knife in his upper right chest area. “This could indicate that the victim was already in the luggage boot when he was stabbed,” explained police inspector Wayne Camilleri from the Homicide Squad.

Farrugia’s brother had given a DNA sample that led to the positive identification of the victim, he said.

CCTV footage from the area surrounding the valley where the car containing the body was found had established that it had been parked there on 6 March at around 6am. A male person was seen getting out of the car, wearing a COVID facemask and dressed in black, and seen wiping his hands on a blue towel as he left it. CCTV traced him walking out of the valley until he possibly found other transport.

Police began to suspect Eliott Paul Busuttil as a result of this footage, investigating connections to the victim, said the inspector.

The localisation data relating to the mobile devices belonging to the accused and the victim were found to always have been in the same areas on the evening of 28 March, until the victim’s mobile was switched off.

The day before, Farrugia left Pembroke and travelled to Msida at 9:34am, with both Busuttil’s and his device pinging the same location, indicating that they were together – namely, Attard, until 29 March at around 1am, when they both pinged Marsa at 1:31am, indicating that the devices were travelling together.  Then both mobiles were turned off.

Prosecutors told the court that Busuttil appeared anxious during his arrest, immediately telling the arresting officers that he wanted to call his lawyer and asking about evidence for his arrest. 

Police had to force their way into his residence, despite his parents having been inside at the time.

“The suspect was nervous and had been smoking heavily during the search, but had cooperated with the police. His parents were uncooperative at first, saying that he found it strange that they were more concerned about their front door than the fact that their son was arrested in connection with a murder,” the inspector said.

Inspector Camilleri told the court that police forensics officers had noted barely visible bloodstains on Eliott’s bedroom wall. “They brought equipment and confirmed it was blood. Samples were taken for DNA analysis. We later found that the blood was definitely that of the victim, Mario Farrugia,” he said. 

He added that while the samples were being taken, the accused's mother had repeated asked the officers why they were "so obsessed" with the wall, also telling them that she had "just washed it with bleach."

Police had conducted individual interviews with several people, including the victim’s brother, sister in law, his nephew and the neighbour who had reported the man as  missing. “It emerged that Mario lived alone, had never married or had children. He didn’t have friends and had no visitors. We learned that he was a difficult person to have a conversation with as he was very reserved. He had been boarded out and had started working as a taxi driver in June 2021 with a view to improving his future pension.”

“We found that on 22 March 2022, Joseph Farrugia’s brother had gone to visit Mario, who had told him that he had a problem since he started a taxi business.” Two men whom the witness described as ”junkies” had started engaging him to drive them around, not paying their full fares, he said. The inspector testified to having been told by the neighbour that around 30 years ago, the victim had been beaten up by a taxi driver whilst he had been driving his minibus and had never psychologically recovered. The victim had regressed, closing in on himself and was on medication,” the inspector said.

“Mario was a person who was afraid to say ‘no.’” 

At the end of the sitting, the Court declared it had seen sufficient evidence for Busuttil to be indicted for the murder and ordered the acts of the case to be remitted to the Attorney General for the bill of indictment to be issued. The case continues in June.

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Lawyers Edward Gatt and Ishmael Psaila represented Busuttil.

Inspector Wayne Camilleri prosecuted, with the help of lawyers George Camilleri, Kaylie Bonnett and Maria Schembri from the attorney general’s office. 

Lawyers Arthur Azzopardi and Jacob Magri appeared parte civile, on behalf of the victim's family.